It’s National Libraries Day this Saturday 6 February and #libraryletters is a campaign to share what libraries mean.

‘In 1971 a new library opened in Troy, Michigan, USA. To mark the occasion dozens of people across the world were invited to write a letter to the children and young people of Troy about the importance of libraries and reading. Forty-four years later, as Chief Executive of the Arts Council (the national development agency for libraries in England), I’m inviting you to mark National Libraries Day 2016 by sending your own message to the children of your city, town or village, telling them what you think your local library will mean for their future.’ Darren Henley.

Dear children of Wakefield,

When you open the door to your library, you are starting a special adventure. It’s like a door to your very own Tardis and your library card is the key to take you to whole new worlds. You can lose yourself in great stories. You will meet new people (story characters or real ones) who will inspire you and live in your imagination. You can find out what it feels like to be somebody else and live a different life. You can explore the world and how things work. The books you discover (paper or digital ones) can help you find the imagination and knowledge you will need to live the life you want to have.

And it’s YOUR adventure. You are in charge. You can choose the books that you want to explore every time you come. It’s free and fun and you will be very welcome. The libraries belong to you and to all the people in Wakefield so please come in and see what you can discover.

– See more at: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/libraryletters/#sthash.F8Em64Gz.dpuf

National Libraries Day


Saturday 6 February is National Libraries Day. We have some special events arranged and many regular events have a special twist. Have a look at the blog What’s On page for a full list. There’s so much going on in libraries today and we are still free to use! Books and reading groups and storytimes of course but you can find out how to improve your health, learn how to cook,start your family history using our free resources, play scrabble or do a jigsaw, download a free magazine or talking book, enjoy crafts and chat to other crafters..in fact, there is not much you can’t do in a library!

One special event is on Monday 8 February, 10.00am at Hemsworth Library. Joan Hart, local author, will be talking about her book “At the coal face: the heart-warming true story of a Yorkshire Pit Nurse” It’s a free event but please call the library on 01977 722270 or email hemsworthlibrary@wakefield.gov.uk  to reserve a place

So tell your family and friends about the library or better still, bring them along to explore and join. It’s your library- join it, use it, love it!

A book for everything that ails us … why bibliotherapy could be just the medicine we’re looking for

The Knowledge Exchange Blog

platform reading Image: Moriza (CC BY 2.0)

By Morwen Johnson

Many of us will have received books as Christmas presents last month – and the bestseller lists testify to their continuing popularity despite regular doom-mongering. The benefits of books go much further though than keeping your brain active and passing the time. Reading involves ‘emotional thinking’ and in the words of The Reader, books “are full of the stuff that makes us human”. That means that they can actually be a powerful resource for improving mental health.

“I felt better than before … I felt understood”

Last year we wrote on our blog about social prescribing – and how the NHS is recognising that non-medical treatments such as arts activities or exercise can improve patient’s mental and physical health. This is partly linked to the emphasis on enabling self-management support to be given to people with long-term or chronic health…

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Cookery author event – Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking

The Nom Nom Nom cookery book reader group, which meets regularly

Grandma Abson's Butterscotch Cake (4)

Doncaster Butterscotch Cake

at Wakefield One Library and Museum the first Saturday each month at 2pm, invites you to join us for an afternoon of tea, cakes and Edwardian recipes from Grandma Abson’s vintage recipe book. On Saturday 5th March 2.00-3.00pm author Meryl White will be talking about her book and sharing some tasty home-baked treats. Read more about Grandma Abson’s legacy on Meryl’s blog


“Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking is all about simple and tasty baking, a legacy from my Grandma’s time as a

Flakemeal biscuits (5)

Irish Flakemeal Biscuits

cook-housekeeper in Edwardian times and a lifetime of baking. As I was growing up, I watched her bake and cook, and acquired her expertise and passion for baking. Now I’m sharing Grandma Abson’s baking with you. Enjoy!” – Meryl White, Author


Free event but booking is essential please


Wakefield Library and Museum

Wakefield One, Burton Street

Wakefield WF1 2DD

Tel 01924 305356

Email wakefieldlibrarymuseum@wakefield.gov.uk

Richard and Judy’s Spring titles

I was very pleased to see that Laura Barnett, our guest speaker at last year’s Lit Fest Readers’ Group Day, has had her book ‘The Versions of Us’ chosen by Richard and Judy for their Spring collection. It was a real pleasure to meet and talk to her and it will be good to see her book promoted to a wider audience. We have plenty of copies in stock and a readers group set too! We have also just had delivered a Readers Group set of’ Our endless numbered days’ by Claire Fuller. The book won the Desmond Elliott Prize for New Fiction and I’m looking forward to discussing it with one of my groups. Other familiar authors are Rosamund Lupton (author of ‘Afterwards’) with her new book’ The Quality of silence’ and Sarah Winman whose previous book ‘When God was a rabbit’ has been a popular readers group choice. Will ‘A year of Marvellous Ways ‘ be a Readers Group winner too? There are eight titles to choose from (find out more here)  and you can order them all from your library.

Books for 2016


The papers are full of lists of the books you should have read in 2015. The Christmas break is a good time to note titles you may have missed or promise yourself that next year you will tackle that classic you have always meant to read.   Here are a few of the books coming up in the next three months that you may want to add to the list>


Helen Dumore -Exposure

London, November, 1960: the Cold War is at its height. Spy fever fills the newspapers, and the political establishment knows how and where to bury its secrets. When a highly sensitive file goes missing, Simon Callington is accused of passing information to the Soviets, and arrested. His wife, Lily, suspects that his imprisonment is part of a cover-up, and that more powerful men than Simon will do anything to prevent their own downfall. She knows that she too is in danger, and must fight to protect her children. But what she does not realise is that Simon has hidden vital truths about his past, and may be found guilty of another crime that carries with it an even greater penalty.

Peter May -Coffin Road

A man is washed up on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris, barely alive. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. The only clue to his identity is a map tracing a track called the Coffin Road. A detective crosses rough Atlantic seas to a remote rock 20 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. With a sense of foreboding he steps ashore where three lighthouse keepers disappeared more than a century before – a mystery that remains unsolved. But now there is a new mystery – a man found bludgeoned to death on that same rock. A teenage girl lies in her Edinburgh bedroom, desperate to discover the truth about her father’s death. Two years after the discovery of the pioneering scientist’s suicide note, Karen Fleming still cannot accept that he would wilfully abandon her. ‘Coffin Road‘ follows three perilous journeys towards one shocking truth – and the realisation that ignorance can kill us.

Simon Sebag Montefiore – The Romanovs

An accessible and entertaining history of the Russian royal dynasty that was marked by tragedy.


Joan Bakewell – Stop the clocks

Joan Bakewell has led a varied, sometimes breathless life: she has been a teacher, copywriter, studio manager, broadcaster, journalist, the government’s Voice of Older People and chair of the theatre company Shared Experience. She has written four radio plays, two novels and an autobiography. Now in her 80s, she is still broadcasting. Though it may look as though she is now part of the establishment – a Dame, President of Birkbeck College, a Member of the House of Lords as Baroness Bakewell of Stockport – she’s anything but and remains outspoken and courageous. In ‘Stop the Clocks‘, she muses on all she has lived through, how the world has changed and considers the things and values she will be leaving behind.

Anna Hope – The Ballroom

1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors, where men and women are kept apart by high walls and barred windows, there is a ballroom both vast and beautiful. For one bright evening every week they come together and dance. And, when John and Ella meet, it is a dance that will change two lives forever. From the author of ‘Wake’

Howard Jacobson – Shylock is my name.

‘Who is this guy, Dad? What is he doing here?’ With an absent wife and a daughter going off the rails, wealthy art collector and philanthropist Simon Strulovitch is in need of someone to talk to. So when he meets Shylock at a cemetery in Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, he invites him back to his house. It’s the beginning of a remarkable friendship. Elsewhere in the Golden Triangle, the rich, manipulative Plurabelle is the face of her own TV series, existing in a bubble of plastic surgery and lavish parties. She shares prejudices and a barbed sense of humour with her loyal friend D’Anton, whose attempts to play Cupid involve Strulovitch’s daughter – and put a pound of flesh on the line. The next in a series in which notable writers rework Shakespeare’s plays as modern novels.


Tracy Chevalier – At the edge of the orchard

What happens when you can’t run any further from your past? Ohio, 1838. James and Sadie Goodenough have settled in the Black Swamp, planting apple trees to claim the land as their own. Life is harsh in the swamp, and as fever picks off their children, husband and wife take solace in separate comforts. James patiently grows his sweet-tasting ‘eaters’ while Sadie gets drunk on applejack made fresh from ‘spitters’. Their fighting takes its toll on all of the Goodenoughs – a battle that will resonate over the years and across America. Fifteen years later their youngest son, Robert, is drifting through Goldrush California. Haunted by the broken family he fled years earlier, memories stick to him where mud once did. When he finds steady work for a plant collector, peace seems finally to be within reach. But the past is never really past.

Margaret Forster – How to measure a cow

Tara Fraser leaves London to start a new life in a Cumbrian town selected at random. She plans to obliterate her past, which contains a shocking event that had serious consequences, by becoming a completely different personality from her previous volatile self. She is going to be quiet, even dull, and very private. But one of her new neighbours, Nancy, is intrigued by her. She wants to become her friend. Equally determined not to be discarded are three old friends who Tara feels let her down when she most needed them. Tara fights to keep herself to herself, but can she do it? And does she really want to? Slowly, reluctantly, she discovers the dangers of trying to supress the past and reject other people.

Helen Simonson – The Summer before the war

From the author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer, and everyone agrees that the weather has never been so beautiful. Hugh Grange, down from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in the small, idyllic coastal town of Rye. Agatha’s husband works in the Foreign Office, and she is certain he will ensure that the recent sabre rattling over the Balkans won’t come to anything. And Agatha has more immediate concerns; she has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for the appointment of a woman to replace the Latin master. When Beatrice Nash arrives with one trunk and several large crates of books, it is clear she is significantly more free thinking – and attractive – than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be

Happy Christmas and happy reading in 2016!


World Book Night 2016

World Book Night will take place on 23 April 2016. The idea behind the celebration is to use the power of an army of book lovers to try to put books into the hands of people who don’t read very often.  Plan who you would like to give books to and how you would do it, then apply to be a Book Night giver on the website  www.worldbooknight.org/ Some of the books you could choose are shown and there are books for teenagers and Quick Reads too. The books can be collected from local libraries. Applications close on 29 January so start planning now and good luck!

Sound of the Three Wisdoms

We’d like to share the very special poem written at a recent creative writing workshop. One of our regular partners Vanessa Goddard (Senior Tutor for Additional Learning Support, Adult Education)  is running a Mental Health Support Project. Learners can self-refer onto the project and must have, or previously have had, mild to moderate mental health issues. All the courses offered are geared up to assist them in dealing with these issues and we arranged a creative writing morning with the help of  Bibliotherapist and Creative Writing tutor Julie Walker. The group, who didn’t know each other, were initially a little worried about taking part, but over the session they developed confidence and stressed how much the writing session helped them.


Here is the poem they wrote which is read to the tune of  ‘My Favourite Things’ from the Sound of Music.

The Sound of the Three Wisdoms 

My son’s eyes smiling

And grandkids who love me

Tweet of the blue birds

The buzz of the wild bee


Freedom from worry

The stress and the woe

This is the way that my day should go


When the storm breaks

When the clouds crash

When I’m feeling low

I listen to favourite songs that I know

And then I begin to glow


A poem by

John, Russ and Rita

Murder and Mince Pies!


Join us on Monday 30 November 2pm at Wakefield Library and Museum for an afternoon of crime and cake! Christina James, the author of In the Family, Almost Love and Sausage Hall, will be introducing her latest D.I. Yates thrill, The Crossing. Join us for afternoon tea with Christina and treat yourself to an early Christmas present.

Free event but booking is essential please, tel 01924 305376

or email wakefieldlibrarymuseum@wakefield.gov.uk

Reflections on the first Featherstone Festival of Words.


Thank you to Ian Clayton (above, leading the Festival writer’s workshop) for these reflections on the Featherstone Festival of Words.  Visit Ian’s website HERE

First things first. I have longed to have a literature festival in Featherstone. I have longed for it ever since Miss Price, a student teacher at George Street junior Mixed, marched us all up Station Lane in 1967 to visit the library. “Our” library. The one that smelled like a library, of must and wax polished parquet wooden floor blocks. The library where stern librarians instructed you to show your hands, then wash them, before you touched any of “their” books. Of course I didn’t know then that there was such a thing as a literature festival, but I did know because I fell in love with that library at first sniff, that I wanted words.

 Fast forward then to the Featherstone Festival of Words 2015. I walked into the library on the Saturday morning and the first person I see is an old junior school friend, who had been on that same library trip with me all those years before. She said “I know I’m early, but I’m eager to see what’s going on!” Then the second thing I see is Rebecca Jenkins pinning sheets of words to a wall. These words were written by students at my old junior school and every other junior school in Featherstone. “Look at this one” she said, “It’s very beautiful.” And of course, it was and it was written by a kid from Featherstone, given an opportunity to share words.

 Featherstone Festival of Words was well named. When you strip back the whole reason for having literature festivals in the first place, it all comes back to words. Words that mean something to those who use them, those who listen to them, and those that like to share them. Words that become stories, or plays or songs, words that change attitudes, words that suddenly allow a penny to drop in the minds of those that we vote for to represent us. And words that start friendships, collaborations and turn people on to want to read more .Thirty some years ago, at a one off storytelling and poetry event at Featherstone Library, funded by the arts council, I went to see two Americans and one Australian who had been described on the blurbs as “performance artists.” I have to say that the two American’s were not up to much, they gave a half hearted show of their work and seemed lost, like fish out of water when they munched on potted meat sandwiches that the library staff had cut in to triangles at the after event supper. The Aussie though was a different kettle of fish. I came to know him later as “Thom the World Poet” and he gave a rousing performance of his own work and then an impromptu workshop, where he encouraged some young people who had probably been coerced into coming to make the numbers up. One thing sticks out in my mind over these years since that night. He said to one young lass, who was shyly trying to say a poem that she had written. “Be loud, be proud, say these words out loud, because they belong to you and nobody has found a way of taxing them yet!” Thom ended up staying in the back bedroom at my house that night. The following day I took him for a walk around my home town. I showed him the spot where in 1893 some soldiers had come to shoot at striking coal miners. I took him up the allotments and I we watched old men training racing pigeons and then we went to sit in the stands at Post Office Road stadium and I told him about the heroes of our local Rugby League team. He said “This is exactly the place where a literature festival should take place. This is where we will find the new words, a different language.” He told me that every year he was invited to Cheltenham, but that over time he had become bored with it, because people parroted the same old words. “My ears need to hear something different,” he said. He wasn’t kidding.

 I think this happened in the middle of the 1980’s. It’s taken a long time then for a literature festival that finds different words, to come, but it was worth it. I think the real beauty of what happened in Featherstone was in the unexpected. I didn’t expect May Nock to come and give a demonstration of how to translate words into Braille and I certainly didn’t expect to see Peter Harris, the stalwart of the local printing firm to come and talk on the history of printing from Caxton to the internet. Neither was I prepared for the astonishing quality of the writing that came out of the two workshops I ran. You never really know what people attending creative writing workshops will come out with. At the event at the library on the Saturday, I sat and listened to words put together in a way that I had never heard in my home town and the stories that I heard were as fresh as new laid eggs. I shouldn’t be surprised by what can happen when a cheap borrowed biro is applied to paper from a copying machine on a stacking table, but I was that day.

 “My Aunt was gay, in every sense of the word, announced Christine, then she paused, for dramatic effect.

 “Carry on.” I said

 “Well she was a lesbian, but better than that, she was also a spy, a lesbian spy. When she died, I never saw so many women at another woman’s funeral.” She carried on reading about this aunt of hers, who she described as a dislikeable woman who people couldn’t help but like. She then said “I’ve been wanting to write something for ages, but I’m not really sure where to start.”

 I recalled something that the great African writer, Chenjerai Hove, had once said to me when we collaborated on a project, He said “I think you are like me Ian, you believe that the good story can start anywhere.”

 I said to Christine “The good story starts anywhere and your book has started right here today in a room at the back of Featherstone library.”

 Catherine was sitting next to Christine. She told a story about her father. She said “He never really talked about something that happened at the pit, that we had all heard about, but didn’t know the details of.” She went on to tell of how her dad had been one of the rescue ream following a disaster at Ackton Hall Colliery. She went on, “Dad decided to tell me one day. Three men somehow managed to survive by keeping their heads above the slurry that had burst into a shaft, but one man died after trapping his legs under a table in a pit bottom office. My dad cried when he told me this and it was only when he put his hand up to his face to wipe a tear, that I saw the blue flecks of embedded coal dust and scars and hard work on his hand that told me what a proud Featherstone coal miner he had been.”

 Mark wrote about his mother who had fled the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland to settle here and find work as a dinner lady. She had a mantra” he said “She believed that humanity and “all you need is love” pulls you through.”

 Dawn wrote about her Grandmother who had patched and sewn the ripped and torn jerseys of Featherstone rugby players. “Somebody had to do it” she said “they couldn’t afford new shirts every time, so the job of mending fell to my Gran.”

 And on it went, stories that were half formed inside on the way to a lit fest, finding an airing, gushing forth as a stream of consciousness, words like water, words that told you stories that made you cringe, laugh, study and learn, words that took your breath.

 It was the same earlier in the week when I did a session up at the Featherstone Academy. A school, that it’s fair to say, sometimes struggles to get the kids there to believe in themselves. One young student wrote “My street is like a man waiting for the sun to come out after the rain.” She put up her hand and said “Can you look at this?” I did look. She said “Is it alright to write that?” I said “Yes it is, and what’s more you might just be the first person in the whole world who has written those words about Huntwick Crescent.” She smiled like a slice of watermelon.

 I asked some people who had taken part in the festival to give me an impression. Peter Harris, the printer said “Printing transformed society in 1450, in the same way that the internet has done in the last ten years. In the old days, words were the preserve of the educated well off. Yet words belong to us all and the way we use words encourages aspiration. Days like these, enable me to play a part in introducing people from an area less used to aspiration than perhaps some better off town’s, to ways with words. When I was young, I could read three books a week, I know that today there are some people who have hardly read a book. Their language is impoverished by that, so we need to find new and innovative ways to introduce people to words and reading. When you have a festival like this in your own neighbourhood you can make a start on that.” As an explanation of why you would hold a literature festival in a town not known for that sort of thing, it was the most elegant and well articulated I have heard.

 Margaret, who works in the library spent part of her Saturday showing young people how to make a peg rug. She said “In the old days, a lot of conversation and story telling went on when families sat down to make things like rugs. Today has brought back memories that become stories, the atmosphere has been wonderful. Normally on a Saturday we get borrowers and computer browsers. Today we have been sharing stories.”

 The caretakers who took great care in helping to make sure that the library was a good place to be on Saturday opened the door to let me out at as the evening events were coming to a close. I turned as they closed the door behind me. “What do you reckon?” One said “What to today?” Before I could say anything else, they both said in harmony. “Good do!” And it was a good do.

 I don’t suppose it’s fair to single out people to thank, but Featherstone Festival of Words couldn’t have happened without the hard work and dedication of the women who work for Wakefield Lit Fest. They and in particular, Suzie, Rebecca and Fran, deserve a medal as big as a dustbin lid. We should also thank the members of the Town council who got involved and to bring it all back home to the library we need to thank the staff there. Things do change, all of the librarians on Saturday were full of smiles and nobody once asked me to wash my hands before I touched any books. 

Ian Clayton





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